+ J.M.J.A.T. +

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Prayers Please

With fear, I admit going to Dunkin Donuts again today.  Today though I went to get a little treat for a sister who lives in my convent but is currently taking care of her sick family member.  On my way to visit her, I stopped to get them some muffins as a little treat for them.

While I was waiting in line, a man came over and asked if he could pay for my order.  I said that I was actually getting a gift for someone else so he offered to buy me a cup of coffee instead.  I said yes, but only because I knew he really wanted to do something for a sister.  I asked his name and he told me so I held out my hand to shake his and he kissed my hand!  I've never had something like that happen before!  Well... the woman behind the counter said, "wow!"  That was my response as well!

Anyway, he was very sweet and told me that he hadn't been to church in a while and that his children weren't baptized.  He was really upset about both.  Please say a prayer for him that he has the courage to come back to us.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Well, It is 10:30 pm and I just got in the convent.  I know you are probably thinking..."What are you doing out so late?  Why would a nun be gone until 10:30?  Was she at a wild party?"  Okay, you might not ask the last one... but it's true.  I was at a wild party.

I just got home from a Home and School Association function for the kids.  I've been awake since 4:30 this morning and I have been working since then.  That's apostolic religious life.  I think sometimes people think that because we have more freedom in this way of life that we aren't "real sisters."  Maybe they think that we don't pray enough.  Maybe they don't think we should be out of the house as much.  Maybe they think that because we are out, we aren't with community enough.  I don't really know the exact reason.  But I thought I would give a really realistic look at my life today.  The real freedom is in being able to respond to God's movement, the needs of the people, and the structures of community living all at the same time.

I've already said what my normal day to day life looks like but this was a day full of schedule changes and special circumstances but it was also pretty awesome.  My life is a real balancing act because I am a religious called to be apostolic - to go out into the world to do God's work.  It is much different from being a monastic who, in addition to structured prayer and community life, does some ministry or work.  Intrinsic to my vocation is being with the people as a faithful witness.  This balancing act includes prayer, community, and apostolate and everyday is a different and new adventure.

Today after Mass at the nearby parish to which we drive each day, my sister principal and I stopped for a Dunkin Donuts treat on our drive back to school.  Sometimes the kids give us a gift card and we save it for special occasions (with the permission of the superior) - like the beginning of standardized testing.  We definitely needed the caffeine before a long day.  Once I got to school I took all my test materials out of my closet and was trying to straighten up my desk before I had a meeting with my grade partners.  For 40 minutes before school started we hashed it out (in a good way :) ) with our school counselor about a few kids with major issues.  Then we picked our homeroom students up from the hall and brought them back to the room.  As I took roll and got the kids unpacked they told me about Grandma being run over (I'm not kidding - she's ok but say a prayer for her if you can), a cousin who died, their punishment for not doing their homework and so on and so on.

When we were finished unpacking, we began our testing.  I used the time between giving directions while they were filling in all those bubbles to pray my rosary as I walked around the room to make sure they were in the right section and taking their time.

When they were finished we had religion class, lunch, and then I had one science class.  We said our afternoon prayers and I took my line down the street and said, "See you soon."  I talked really entertaining "trash" on how I was going to beat them at the activity that night and they cracked up laughing.  It was a fun walk at dismissal.  After that I went back to close up the classroom.  On my way out, a parent showed up about a demerit her child received from me.  So I had an impromptu and unfortunate parent conference and then left to get an early dinner in the convent.  I took my office book back to school with me and I was changing my decorations to Lent.  I took a break to pray and continued working on my decorations and on grading copybooks.

At 7, I went to the HASA event.  The kids were hilarious and we had a wonderful time.  It was also time that they were not spending roaming the city streets or getting into trouble.  It was time they spent working as a team, spending time with their teachers, parents, and friends, and just having wholesome fun.  But here it is, 11:00 pm now, and I'm writing on my blog.

If I was in a community where prayers were solemn-high at night on a Friday -  I wouldn't be there for these kids.  I pray for them ALL the time.  Prayer is vital to my life.  However, as an apostolic religious I have to take it when I can get it and let it invade my life.  The kids see that I pray.  They see that I love God because they are such a priority in my life.  They are there for so much of my prayer time.  School isn't something I fit in... neither is prayer.  They are both vital and frequently they overlap.

Basically, it's a great life.  It's an exciting life.  It's a challenging life.  It's the life God has called me to live for Him.  A stricter community is, objectively, more attractive to me; but I know the reason is because it would be easier for me (not for everyone, but for me).  I hate having to work things in.  I'm a very scheduled person and I hate having to be flexible.  I have a difficult time being moved by the Spirit and going with God's will.  I plan everything.  I believe God has called me to what is more difficult for me to stretch me and change me.  I have to find the time for each vital part of my life until they become one living reality.  It is difficult but it is the most joyful.  

Wednesday, February 23, 2011


Sometimes it is a tightrope act in school when trying to be there for the kids while at the same time being a professional.  Today I had one of those days.  I've said it before but my kids tell me everything.  The boys gave me a real lesson on a few phrases today which I found quite... interesting...   I'm still not sure about any of it but after we talked the kids told me how grateful they are that they can say what is going on in their life when they are with me and I don't yell at them.  I said to them... why would I yell?  What would it help for me to get angry with you for knowing something that is "bad?"  It isn't their fault that they know it.  If I'm mad at them for knowing... I can't exactly help them to live the Gospel.  I'm just pretending that they are something they aren't.  It isn't 1950 anymore.  

A week ago, I knew that one of my girls was in the middle of a difficult family situation.  I thought and prayed about it and, although it wouldn't be my number one choice, I chose to tell her about my own family situation.  They were so similar and I felt like I might be able to help her by telling her.  I kept some things to myself but I shared what I could.  Today she gave me a piece of paper with badly written paragraph on it.  It was kinda rambling; however, I got what she meant.  I wrote her back with a popular song lyric and a quote from JPII.  It was all about freedom and living life to the fullest amidst her own pain.

I hope all of it helps and brings fruit.  In faith I know that God will bring fruits that I will never know of.  It's just amazing.  Each time it happens I think how blessed I am to watch God work over and over again.  It is like seeing grace under a microscope.  I watch it move and change, grow and transform.  It is a science of it's own.  

Sunday, February 20, 2011


I haven't really identified too often where I live and I usually don't talk about particular situations but I feel like I'm ready to say what I've been thinking and praying about these past two weeks.

When I was in high school I converted to the Catholic Church.  My parents thought I was brainwashed by a priest.  I really didn't care.  I had finally found someone who really cared about my soul and I was grateful to God for that.  I was in college, before I was a sister, when the first sex abuse scandal broke in Philadelphia.  I remember being in Spanish class and having my teacher bring it up.  He was so insulting to the Church, in a Catholic college.  I walked out and reported him.  He told me he would fail me.  I really didn't care.  I knew it was an unfortunate and sinful thing that had happened but was being fixed.

However, I have to be honest when I say that I thought this was all behind us.  If you don't know... there is another grand jury report on the sexual abuse of minors in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.  That's what I'm talking about.

Now as this next round begins; I'm a middle school teacher in the city.  Sisters and friends keep asking me, "Did you read what the Cardinal said?" "Did you see the news story on...?" "Has anyone at your house said...?".  My students eloquently ask, "What happened with those perverts?"  Now, I am normally the one who has read/seen/heard all the news on everything.  Most of my nun friends count on me to have the answers because I like to read and ponder and explore issues.  However, my answer these days has been "no" or "I don't know."

My "no" isn't because I want to pretend it isn't happening.  (Please, I work with 12-15 year olds... I don't get the luxury of pretending anything-they are like lie detector tests.)  My "no" is because I can't see that in my life right now my keeping up with this news is going to be the most fruitful or grace filled way for me to be present to the Church here.  My response has to be solution-oriented.  That is why it makes me so angry to see people protesting outside the Cathedral, spreading gossip and hearsay, and giving radio interviews about the whole situation.  None of those are solutions to the problem that is at hand.  They are simply talk and distraction from what God is really asking of us.

I'm sure that there are many people who would disagree that my approach is geared to a solution but I feel it truly is.  I am offering my sacrifices and my prayers for the Church in Philadelphia and I am trying to educate the future leaders of the Church here.  That is all that I can do.  I can see in the eyes of my students God's grace calling them forth to radical sacrifice and trust in His promise through these events which will shape their understanding of Church and holiness forever.  I can only rely on my own experience, that God brings forth great grace in times of great sin.  I have to believe that he will use even this terrible experience for the building up of the Kingdom.      

Then I look again at my kids... how do they make sense of this stuff?  We did talk about it in really general terms but the saddest thing is that they aren't even shocked.  They hear about this stuff all the time anyway.  Maybe it is better they don't get upset by it.  I don't really know.  I just know I'm trying to encourage them to live knowing that they are preparing for a future where they will be responsible for the unfortunate situation we are in now.  That's why I'm so proud of them.  They are living up to it though.  They are my hope.

I know it affects everyone in a different and daily way.  For me, I go to chapel in the early morning hours in the convent and I pray for our Church.  In my convent, the sister in charge of chapel put sign and candle in front of the altar saying that we are praying for our priests.  In my apostolate, I am trying to foster the spirit of loving sacrifice, perseverance, and selfless giving.  These seem to be exactly what we need... at least in my mind and heart.... during this time of sadness and pain.

I hope that God will accept my gift of self and the gifts that I know my students are offering for the Church in Philadelphia.  We have been blessed with saintly leaders like St. John Neumann and St. Katharine Drexel and I really believe God will give the grace to raise up more holy men and women to work hard - to give their lives - for the Church here.  I think my students find that exciting (except the whole body in a glass box thing - that kinda creeps them out :) ).

Jesus, please help us.  We have nothing if we don't have You.  Please enter the hearts of Your children and inspire in them radical faith, love, and hope to follow You unreservedly, knowing that You alone will fulfill their every desire.  Change our hearts Lord!        

Saturday, February 12, 2011


This morning I felt so much comfort in the response to the psalm at Mass, "In every age, O Lord, you have been our refuge."  This is probably going to be a really scattered post because I'm still thinking myself about everything that has happened in Philadelphia in the past few days.  Another indictment and another scandal has come out again.  It breaks the hearts of the people - the priests, the religious, the laity, the victims.  I'm still working it out in my mind and heart right now.  I have tried to post a few times but have stopped each time because I'm just not sure what to say.

I can't describe the sorrow I feel about everything.  I really do believe in faith that God is allowing us to experience this terrible mortification and purification right now for our own good.  When I look at the state our Church is in at this time I just wait and watch to see the great holy men and women God will call to do His work... to rebuild His Church.  My students fill my heart with hope as I watch their hearts slowly be enflamed through the purifying fire that is upon us now.

We received a letter to send home to parents after the news broke but the teachers were not allowed to comment on it.  My kids being the holy-rollers they are, wanted to read it right away when they saw it was from the Cardinal.  As I told them to put the letters in their backpacks they reminded me, "But Sister, this is important.  It's from the Cardinal!"  The next day they wanted us to talk about it again.  I wish I could have but I was under not permitted to do so.    Instead we spoke about how God could be calling them to be the hope and the future of the Church.  A few days before we were talking about the story of Abraham and the idea of sacrificing our wills.  My students came up with a few ways they could try to sacrifice their wills.  They are really competitive so it wasn't hard at all for me to get them to think of the best way to beat themselves!  They decided that they would offer one of those sacrifices for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia without any prompting of my own.

How much will God listen to the sacrifices of His dear children in response to the pain and hurt of His children before?  I believe their sacrifices will be what saves us.

I have to be honest when I say that I am angry at those who have caused this to happen to our Church.  That is not to say that I believe everything in the media but that I'm sure what they report has happened at some point and I am furious with a righteous anger that we have been betrayed as a Church and as children of God.  I am also convinced that God will raise up leaders whose holiness will be a brilliant light for the world.

We are at such a unique time where the sin of the world has entered into the Church and we are losing more and more everyday - not to say that there aren't any hopeful signs - but to be truthful that it is a difficult time for anyone to follow Christ.  I really believe that there will be a new springtime of generous sacrifice, radical love, and deep conversion to living the Gospel.  At the same time I hope they don't resent the rest of us too much for our shortcomings.  They have been failed.

Please join with me in prayer that God does for us what we need... that He cares for us as His children and that He protects the children under our care now and always.  Jesus, we need you!  Amen.

Thursday, February 10, 2011


This week my convent had the joy of having one of our sisters stay with us.  It was lovely.  Today she came to school to see my classroom and my students.  Of course, I was bragging up and down about them.  "They made Confirmation this year and they are so holy and wonderful..."  And they really are, usually, pretty holy for sixth graders.  They may not always make the right decisions but they definitely have consciences that work.  When something happens sometimes they turn themselves in before I even find out about it.  It makes my heart fill with happiness to see what wonderful young men and women they are.

However, that picture was then shattered this afternoon - okay... I'm being dramatic.  It wasn't shattered but it did take a heavy blow.  At dismissal the boys were talking to me about the dance that a local Catholic, not school, organization has for them monthly.  They said, "What if Sister came?"  "I wouldn't go."  I acted very offended (I wasn't; I just know they think it's funny when I act like that because they giggle and giggle) and asked why they would ever not want me around.  After all, I'm the best Sister they have (and the only one!).  

I was so sad when they really told me why they wouldn't want me there - because of the way they "dance."  Yes, I know it has a name but I'm not going to even repeat it here.  I guess maybe they thought I wouldn't know it, but I'm in my twenties so I know everything they are talking about.  It just broke my heart to hear that they think that is okay to do.  They don't understand even a little bit how terrible it is.

So here is my dilemma... the world is taking over our children.  I don't feel like we can compete... other than by our faith in Jesus that He will be present to them.  But we have to be doing something wrong.  Or there has to be something more that we can be doing?  I don't know what it is though.  A few ideas for the moment are; modelling, sacrifice and penance, and intentional prayer for them.  We really are in a battle for the future of our world and for the salvation of souls.  It is increasingly difficult to form a good conscience everyday.  Everyday there is a new assault on things good and beautiful and right.  Whether it comes from the TV, the parents, the friends, or the neighborhoods... or all of them, our kids are being sucked in without a chance to a way of living that will never give them the true peace and joy that comes with a life of love.  

I know one conversation doesn't mean the world is over... but one conversation can be very telling - and this one was.  Pray with me that God calls up new leaders and new models for our young people and that they respond wholeheartedly to His call to live and love in faith.      

Saturday, February 5, 2011

My Nuns Rock!

My local convent community is basically awesome.  This is my first year here and these sisters amaze me with their generosity and hospitality ALL the time.  Whatever shortcomings we all have... together... we are a really great group.  I'm so grateful to God for putting me in this community with these particular sisters.

This weekend I realized all over again how awesome they really are.  I asked to invite a large group of young sisters to stay at our house overnight so that we could recreate and be together.  They said yes and were thrilled to have the youngin's invade the house.  We live in a rather large house for the number of sisters here so there is a lot of room.  As part of our community spirit of hospitality I got all the sisters rooms ready for them before they came; beds turned down, towels out, extra blanket ready, homemade welcome sign, and a little Valentine gift on their beds.  I had a lot of fun, haha.  I love to entertain.

After everyone arrived safe and sound, well almost sound... this was Catholic Horrors...ummm... I mean Catholic Schools Week, we found out that one of the sisters had a little gift for us too.  Her superior gave us a little donation to get a bite out to eat.  We went for some wonderful food and talked, talked, and talked some more... about convent life, prayer, community, school, students, friends, family... and anything else we could think of.  When we got back, we joined the nuns in the community room and chatted for a while again.

When the majority of the group had fallen asleep in their chairs we got everyone up to bed amidst a lot of giggling and smiles.  It was just great to be together.  We slept in and went to a late Mass... after which we continued talking and just enjoying one another's company.

Bottom line is... other nuns might be annoyed by a bunch of giggly, loud, and goofy young nuns hanging around but mine are awesome (obviously we aren't disrespectful but it is nice to let loose with one another).  They were just happy to share our convent home with other sisters and enjoy one another's company.  It was great.

So now I am feeling quite happy and energetic about everything.  I love this feeling... it is definitely God's way of telling me to keep going and enjoy the exciting ride of religious life.  He is so present in that hospitality and goodness of the sisters with whom I live and I love to see Him there all the time!